Tea Party faithful consider what’s next

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Local Tea Party members aren’t standing still just days after Democratic President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Some are off to southwest Louisiana to work phone banks and canvass for the candidate they consider the more conservative Republican in a Dec. 8 runoff for the U.S. House.
“We want to work together for Jeff Landry,” said Grant Sowell, a Tupelo businessman and local Tea Party spokesman, saying he and other Mississippi political conservatives will converge on Louisiana’s newly drawn congressional district Nov. 30.
Many Tea Party-affiliated Northeast Mississippians consider 1st District Congressman Alan Nunnelee not conservative enough and backed one of his two Republican primary challengers earlier this year.
Sitting in the center of tables grouped inside the Gloster Creek Village food court earlier this week, Sowell told a small band of adults and a few children it was not time to give up the fight for conservative principles.
“Since the election, our Tea Party has grown,” he said. “People say they want to get involved – many of them were shocked by the results.”
Sowell told his political soulmates he’s hearing about impending layoffs by major corporations because of perceived financial burdens from the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which requires non-exempted individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
“Another four years of Obama,” he noted, “will be interesting to see how he leads without an election to fear.”
The Tea Party movement sprouted in 2009, its national leadership says, “from the reaction of the American people to fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government, misguided ‘stimulus’ spending, bailouts and takeovers of private industry.”
Its name comes from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when American revolutionaries protested the British tax on tea and threw shiploads into the Boston harbor.
Although its national focus is on strict constitutional adherence and reduced federal spending, taxes, budgets and deficits, the Tupelo group’s concerns ranged from what they see as overly burdensome regulation of businesses and the impact of national health care legislation to anti-abortion activism and what cost the Republicans key elections Nov. 8.
“You gotta hand it to them,” said Bruce Weatherly from Pontotoc County about the Democrats’ wins last week.
Monica Smith said she plans to kick off “round two” of a statewide anti-abortion “personhood” petition drive in January.
She was undeterred by the November 2011 defeat by Mississippi voters for a constitutional amendment declaring a fertilized egg to be person.
Smith, who was active in Southaven businessman Robert Estes’ unsuccessful primary campaign for U.S. House this year, said their little gathering felt “nice, to sit around the table with like-minded people to work on solutions, even if they are local.”
“Yoo-hoo!” she shouted as Sowell noted Oxford attorney Josiah Coleman’s win to the Mississippi Supreme Court last week.
Chatting over pizzas and sub sandwiches, they also talked about voter ID at the polls and prayer vigils outside abortion clinics to working in other states on conservative causes and campaigns.
Smith said she and her husband were in Colorado helping with its personhood drive.
Sowell reported his involvement with campaigns in Wisconsin and Washington state.
They both told of interesting experiences in Washington, D.C., as they attended activism training by Freedom Works, a super political action committee that helped foster the Tea Party movement.
Smith said saying prayers at the U.S. Supreme Court building was something she’d “always wanted to do.”
Morris Alexander of Tupelo asked the more experienced Tea Partiers what people like him could do now that the national elections were over.
“I’m very concerned,” he said.
As the meeting drew to a close, Chuck Howard, president of the Lee County Republican Club, thanked Tea Partiers for their help supporting GOP candidates.
He invited them to the next meeting in January.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com